Chatter and Blather : Adam Lancaster, School Librarian of the Year

Frohes Weinachten Everyone! So what Christmas was technically two days ago, I don’t care, ’tis the season etc etc. I’m going to continue to be jolly until at least February, since I generally find that being happy tends to be nicer than being down in the dumps (and I have been rather grumpy lately, for obvious reasons if you read my Twitter) 🙂 I’ve got  a few books lined up soon to review (plus a Super Duper Awesome Timetable of Organisation, that I predict will take me all of two weeks to fall out of) but in the meantime, here’s some Chatter and Blather news that I cannot believe  I forgot to post at the time.

Meet The Librarian of the Year, Adam Lancaster. In this one article over on SecEd, he sums up beautifully how our attitudes to reading need to change. He’s revolutionised reading for reluctant readers at his school simply by introducing that novel idea of reading for pleasure.

Now I know I’m preaching to the choir. I know everyone knows that you need to enjoy what you’re reading to want to read more and suddenly find the whole reading shebang getting easier, but somehow the topic still keeps needing to be brought up. Children sadly don’t always get the chance to read for enjoyment. They have to read this, because it will help them practice the ‘oo’ phonic, or this one is especially good for blending, or this one has a great moral story to it that will really resonate… but what if that kid just wants to read about their favourite football hero? Personally, I really cannot see why they can’t read this – they’re reading, forget how good it is for them, they’re Actually. READING. That’s a minor miracle in itself, especially when the child is young. If you think about it, reading really is a complex activity and it’s no wonder some children need some real motivation to get through a book or even a page. Somehow that motivation never looks like a Phonics book. Personally it doesn’t look like a sweaty bloke in spiky boots and a muddy corporate t-shirt either, but then I’m not a footie fan.

I think this paragraph sums up for me the change in attitude to reading that has had such a profound effect on a school’s weakest readers:

“Very often a student will tell you that they do not like reading. What they are really telling you is that they do not like the process of reading that they have been through for the past six years. Not many people would enjoy reading if it happened to be reading a list of words on a sheet, being told to break them into phonemes and graphemes and then blend them together again.” Found here

Nope, I can honestly say I wouldn’t enjoy that. I find it difficult enough to read some types of text, let alone if the words and their phonemes have to be jumbled about like a salad first.

Now before anyone yells at me, I know that Phonics can be helpful. Certainly there are some words that just don’t make sense in the ever-fiddly English language if you spell them out. Pop in a knowledge of phonemes though and Bingo! (says the woman who pronounced ‘behemoth’ wrong until at least 2 years ago. Nope, no Phonics for me when I was learning). For some children though it works better to build up a memory of words they can recognise at a glance rather than having to puzzle them out. Could you imagine having to puzzle out the word ‘and’ all the time? Tedious, boring, frustrating – and certainly not the right way to approach reading. Words should never have to be a puzzle if it can be helped, in my opinion. And then for some children a blend of the two works quite nicely, so you’ve got phonics-words-spelling and word recognition and that just seems to be the jammy best of both worlds.

There’s a lot of good stuff in that article. I’ve just highlighted the little bit that caught me – reading is after all dear to my heart and I’d hate to think that some people are denied the chance to enjoy reading simply because they weren’t able to read as they liked.


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